Mine action: reducing risks, improving safety

04 Apr 2017

 Photo: © Martin Oubrecht The presence or suspicion of landmines and unexploded ordnance is impacting on civilians’ lives, restricting agriculture, inhibiting basic sustenance activities and disrupting essential infrastructure and services in many parts of the Donbas region.

by Martin Oubrecht, UNDP Field Security Specialist

The General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 8, 2005, declared April 4 the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It called for continued efforts by member states, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.

Ukraine has been unfortunately impacted by an armed conflict in the eastern part of the country. The conflict has had a widespread impact on the civilian population. The presence or fear of landmines and unexploded ordnance impacts civilians’ lives, restricting agriculture, inhibiting basic sustenance activities, and disrupting essential infrastructure and services in many parts of the Donbas region.

After shelling, mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), booby traps and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the second-most common cause of fatalities and injuries to civilians. This underlines the critical importance of mine action in Ukraine. UNHCR reports indicate that between February 2015 and February 2017, there were 477 confirmed civilian casualties due to mines, ERW, booby traps and IEDs. Of those 477 casualties, 113 people were killed and 364 were injured. After recent increases in shelling across the front line large areas of the war zone have been contaminated by ERW, especially by unexploded ordnance, which could potentially cause even more civilian casualties.

In response, UNDP Ukraine is chairing the Mine-Action Sub-Cluster (a platform that brings all relevant national and international mine action stakeholders together), in order to help co-ordinate mine action in Ukraine. The regular meetings of the sub-cluster mainly focus on demining activities and mine risk education. The sub-cluster also achieved progress in the area of mine victim reporting, which is necessary for the proper functioning of mine victim assistance efforts.

Mine action is very complex and covers five complementary groups of activities:

  1. Humanitarian demining, i.e. mine and ERW surveys, land mapping, marking and clearance

  2. Mine risk education (MRE), i.e. communication to the public of the risk of ERW and how to act in the presence of ERW

  3. Victim assistance, including rehabilitation and reintegration

  4. Stockpile destruction

  5. Advocacy to promote policies and practices that will reduce the threat from landmines and ERW, usually in the context of disarmament and international humanitarian law. The most commonly applied treaties include the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The objective of mine action is to reduce the risk caused by landmines and ERW to a level where people can live safely. This means a situation in which economic, social and health development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine and ERW contamination, and in which the victims’ needs can be addressed. Gender mainstreaming in mine action will ensure that the needs of affected women, girls, boys and men are taken  into account, and the response tailored accordingly.


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